The ACT is set to be the first jurisdiction in the country to raise the age of criminal responsibility.
The territory government introduced legislation on Tuesday which once it’s passed will raise the age from 10 to 12.
There’re further plans to increase it to 14 in July 2025, but advocates are saying it’s not good enough.
Medical research shows that children below 14 aren’t able to fully understand the severity and the consequences of their actions.
And that 94 per cent of children imprisoned from the ages of 10-12 will receive another prison sentence before they reach adulthood, and are also less likely to complete their education and find employment.
Change the Record’s Acting Executive Director Maggie Munn, says the current commitments are lacking.
“That is unfortunately not going to do a great deal for the little ones inside at the moment.
Whilst it’s good to get the younger babies out we want more for the bigger kids as well,” they said.
Under the legislation a new independent therapeutic support panel will be set up to address underlying issues such as trauma and abuse.
ACT’s Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury says the panel will help get young people “get on the right track,” but some advocates are unconvinced.
ACT Council of Social Services CEO Dr Gemma Killen, broadly supports the panel as long as its not another “mini justice system.”
“We support the idea of a therapeutic panel as long as it’s aimed at providing therapeutic support for young people.
So we want to make sure it’s not another mini justice system that kids have to go through,” she said.
Munn is more critical of the panel, and what the legislation calls a “therapeutic corrections order.”
“Its got the word corrections in it.
No matter how therapeutic it is it is still a form of punishment for kids who need help and support, and I worry that’s what this panel turns out to be,” they said.
The final part of the legislation is a community sentencing option.
Munn says the option comes across as a way to mitigate concerns around the community.
“There is a lot of pandering being done to outraged communities to ensure them that things are okay and it’s absolutely fine to harass Aboriginal kids.
In this conversation we’re not talking about the safety of Aboriginal communities, we’re not talking about the safety of young Aboriginal kids and their families at home.
And that’s the really frustrating thing when we talk about this concept of community safety, which community are we talking about because it’s definitely not ours.”
Listen to the full interview with Change the Record’s Acting Executive Director Maggie Munn Here:
Listen to the full interview with ACT Council of Social Services CEO Dr Gemma Killen Here: